An Afghan refugee, father, poet and aspiring beekeeper. Victim of mistaken identity. Held without charge or trial since 2007.
Haroon is being held in Guantanamo because he was picked up in place of someone with the same name – a case of mistaken identity that has resulted in more than a decade of detention without charge or trial.
Far from holding extreme beliefs or engaging in violence, Haroon’s life has been marked by him fleeing war and by his ability to always thrive even in the most difficult circumstances.
He grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan, after violence in Afghanistan forced his family to flee their home. Despite the difficult environment of the camp, he managed to educate himself to college level, gaining an economics degree and fluency in four languages. He provided for his family by working as a trader in the local marketplace, selling bread and honey to other refugees.
He was seized by Afghan forces at a local market in Afghanistan. He was passed to the U.S. military, who took him to Guantanamo in 2007. There, he slipped though the net and went without legal help until 2016 when Reprieve took on his case. Since then we have been fighting for his release.
“Very little is known to the world about Haroon, and Guantánamo’s secrecy laws currently ban me from filling in the blanks.
I can say that the bright-eyed, chatty young man I met for the first time last week is not allowed to meet me alone for more than ten minutes before government representatives forcibly remove him from the room. At his Board hearing today, Haroon will not be allowed to see the evidence against him; the Board can hold its findings against him without ever asking him if the information is true.
As Haroon was removed from our meeting, he was told to be grateful for the fifteen minutes attorney access he got. He looks to me for an answer: “Are they right… should I be grateful?” his eyes ask. I tell him to trust me. But I am flatly terrified of what will become of Haroon and those like him.
Reprieve U.S. attorney Shelby Sullivan Bennis, who met Haroon for the first time in June 2016.
Haroon has taken every opportunity to educate himself at Guantanamo, studying art and learning fluent English. His determination to support his daughter’s education has motivated him to keep learning and preparing for the day he is released.
He hopes to become a professional bee keeper and run his own honey bee farm. Haroon has a wife, a 10 year-old daughter and a large, supportive family. He takes great pride in his daughter, who is the top student in her school of 800 kids.
16 years since Guantanamo’s opening – all you need to know about America’s illegal prison, and the movement to close it.